Cong should institutionalise dynastic succession in party

K. Raveendran

Berkeley is easily Rahul Gandhi’s best performance so far. The Congress vice president has come a long way since his first interview with Arnab Goswami for his former Times Now channel, which put the social media on fire accusing the interviewer of being a paedophile for asking tormenting questions, and the Bangalore University address where the students nearly heckled him for his unacceptable observations.
At the University of California event, though he has been criticised for making statements that sounded uncharitable to India as a nation, Rahul Gandhi was candid and appeared more confident than ever before. So much so that an eager Congress party attributed the new-found success of its student wing NSUI in the Delhi University elections as a positive offshoot of Rahul’s speech, which, according to the party, was better received than the one Modi made on the occasion commemorating Swami Vivekanand’s famous Chicago speech. The comparison may be a bit overambitious, but the party cannot be faulted for comparing.  Rahul himself acknowledged to his Berkeley audience that Modi’s oratorial skills were superior to his own, but that was all he deserved credit for, while everything else was tilted towards the wrong side.
When Rahul said dynasty is the way things run in India, there was certain innocence about him. That perhaps gives an insight into the man’s thinking and how he understood the goings-on in the Congress party. It also throws some light on why he has been a reluctant leader all this while. As a man of his generation, imbued with a sense of reasoning, he could not have seen any reason other than dynastic succession for him to be naturally in line to succeed his mother; or even for his mother to have taken over from his late father, or his father succeeding his grandmother.  He also cited the case of Akhilesh Yadav and others as well as the unwritten Bollywood rule that favours those with the right family lineage to buttress his argument.
Supreme Court advocate Avani Bansal wrote in Times of India the other day about how dynasty is ruling the roost in the judiciary. According to her, the legal profession continues to be the bastion of a few privileged and powerful families. “Be they advocates or judges, there is a trend whereby the children and grandchildren of senior advocates and judges continue to thrive while first generation lawyers find the entry barriers extremely high and the chances of success tilted against them,”  she said.
Rahul Gandhi did have a point. But as it happens mostly with him, he fails to get the complete picture and his understanding goes for a toss. In fact, his partial understanding of issues has landed him in major goof-ups from time to time. He may be partly correct about the Congress party or the Samajwadi Party. Indira Gandhi succeeded Jawaharlal Nehru in her own right as a leader, but this cannot be held true for Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia or in his own case. And so are the cases of Akhilesh Yadav and the kins of Mayawati and Mamata Banerjee who are being projected as heir apparent.
Rahul Gandhi cannot lose sight of the hard reality that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not the son of a former prime minister, or a chief minister, or even a minister.  President Ram Nath Kovind has no political family lineage to claim. So is the case with the Vice President, Chief Justice, and Lok Sabha Speaker etc.  They have all come up in Rahul’s dynastic India without any prior claim.
So, one can see that Rahul’s exposition is as much vile as it is innocent. His dynasty argument has been put forth not to suggest that such things are bad for a healthy democracy, but to justify his own claim for succession.  In fact, he used the Berkeley speech to announce his arrival at the top, declaring that he was now ready to take over the leadership of the party. But he often seems to forget that he is in line to succeed as the party president and not as the prime minister, a position that he conjures up for himself, by always pitting Narendra Modi on the opposite side.  He miserably fails to realise that his Congress party is in no position to put him in his coveted seat. Berkeley is not going to carry him or his party for long, at least not until elections become due so that he can have a shy at Narendra Modi.
But once he is in command, he can perhaps take the dynasty argument to its logical conclusion by incorporating it into the Congress party’s constitution, if there is a valid one in existence, so that this causes no further embarrassment to the party or its sympathisers in future.  Even in natural law, long practice imparts an element of legitimacy; so no one can accuse the party of arbitrariness and it will also strengthen the party’s democratic credentials, which currently leave much to be desired. (IPA)

Tuesday, 3 October, 2017